Sunday, May 30, 2010

What a Wonderful Week!

Hi, everyone! It has been a wonderful week filled with fantastic times with my family. Joe's parents arrived Monday evening and Pam's family arrived Wednesday evening and it has been non-stop good times since! Everyone leaves tomorrow, but I am so excited to share the fun things we've done that I couldn't wait to post.

Even though Pam and I have raised our families on oppostite sides of the country, we have worked very hard over the years to get our families together as often as we could. It definitely hasn't been the same as if we had raised our kids in the same town, but the relationships they share and the love they have for each other couldn't be much better even if we had. The wonderful thing about this is that each time we get together, there is absolutely no awkwardness or time spent getting comfortable with each other again. It may have been a couple of months since we all last saw each other, but it feels like it could have been a couple of days.

It is also much the same with Joe's family. They have always included Pam and her family in everything we've done as a Hitzel family and it truly feels like we are all one big family, not in-laws. We are reaping the rewards of this, this week.

Michael's graduation was Thursday evening. My principal, Sheila, arranged for us to have VIP parking and for a golf cart to take me from the parking lot to the stadium. It's not that I couldn't have walked in by myself, but I do get really short of breath and tire out pretty easily, so this was a huge help. She also arranged for me to have preferential seating. I didn't want to sit by myself, however, and planned to climb up into the stands so I could share the experience with my family. When Sheila learned of this she spoke to the vice-principal in charge of graduation and arranged for all twelve of us to have preferential seating! We all literally had side-line seats! It had been a bit of a rough week, physically, leading up to to this and there had been points where I wasn't even sure with all the extra help that I was going to make it to the ceremony. I not only made it, but had an absolutely fantastic time. Sitting there surrounded by the best family anyone could ask for and watching our youngest graduate high school just filled me with so much joy and pride. Thank you, Sheila, for being the amazing friend that you are!

Michael entering the stadium and spotting us on the sidelines.

I was the first one to get to Michael to give him a congratulatory hug!

Michael, Janaya, and Joey.

The cousins.

Grandma and Granddaddy.

Proud Mom and Dad!

After graduation, it was back to our house for vanilla ice cream and Grandma's famous hot fudge sauce. Yumm!!! Next, (drum roll please!) time to open presents. This is the big surprise I wrote about at the end of my last post. Michael uses my iTouch periodically to play games or check his Facebook page. Last week, when I was in Tuscon, I opened up Facebook and for some reason it went to Michael's inbox instead of mine. I started reading the first message and in it he mentions to a friend who is going to turn 18 how he turned 18 a while ago, but has always wanted to go skydiving. I had absolutely no clue! As far as Joe and I can remember, he had never said anything about this to us. So, I secretly set up for him to go skydiving the Friday morning after graduation. But first, after talking about it with Pam, I decided it would be more fun if he had someone to jump with; someone to share the experience with. I asked Joe. "No." I asked Joey. "No." Finally, I asked Janaya. "Absolutely! If Michael is going to jump out of a plane, I'm jumping with him!" So first thing Friday morning, the whole family packed up and drove out to Casa Grande to watch them skydive. They loved it! I'm amazed at how absolutely fearless the two of them were. They were 100% excited! Here are a few pictures.


So, that is all I'm going to write about for now. Everyone is out and about and I have some time to recharge my batteries for the evening. More updates later.

Much love to everyone!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A New Puppy!

Hi, everyone. I'm sorry it has been a while since my last posting. We've been pretty busy around here with medical issues since I last wrote and I just haven't had the energy to write.

My cancer continues to be unrelenting in its attack on my body and nothing Dr. Livingston has tried has helped. I had trouble tolerating the chemo he tried initially on learning that my cancer had spread. They have to give you a ton of fluid with it to flush out your kidneys and my body just couldn't handle it. There was also no sign that it was having any effect against the cancer. He then went back to the chemo I was on when he originally started seeing me. We were happy with this plan because we knew that at that point it had been at least partially effective and I knew what I was getting into with it as far as side effects go. I had my first dose of it last Wednesday and was supposed to return this Wednesday for my second weekly dose. However, again, over this past week, I have noticed a gradual increase in my symptoms rather than any improvement. I was really tired last night and not feeling well and spent some time reflecting. Joe's parents and Pam's family are arriving to visit this week and Michael's graduation is Thursday evening. The whole idea of trying this chemo again was to give me more quality time with my family. Instead, I was dealing with the tiredness and icky feeling that comes with being on chemo and not seeing any improvement. I made the decision that I am not going to do any more chemo. I emailed Dr. Livingston this morning and discussed my decision and the factors that had gone into making it with him and he agreed and was very supportive. Now, our complete focus can be on managing the side effects of the cancer and allowing me to enjoy the time I have with my family. It is an emotional decision and of course has involved quite a few tears, but one, now that it is made, I and my family feel very comfortable with. One of the most positive things about this decision is that I will never, ever have to do chemo again! That is something to celebrate!

In the midst of all that has been going on with my health, a couple of good things have happened, too. Joe's brother, George, lives in Florida and is a pilot for United Airlines. He doesn't usually fly into Phoenix, but was able to arrange to do so last week. We hadn't seen him since our trip to Alaska, so it was a real treat to have the opportunity. I wasn't up for dinner out, but he and Joe and Michael and Janaya all went out to dinner and had a great time visiting.

Joe and George

George with Janaya and Michael

The second good thing to happen many of you might already know from my Facebook page. Janaya and her boyfriend, Andrew, have been wanting to get a puppy for quite a while now, but were waiting until the school year finished so they would have time to spend taking care of and training it. School finished for them two Wednesdays ago and on Saturday they got a new Boxer puppy. Her name is Lucy and she is the cutest, sweetest, most adorable thing! Both Andrew and Janaya had to work double shifts on the Sunday after they got her, so Joe and I got to "puppy" sit. I was excited, but also a little hesitant about how much energy it would take to watch a nine week old puppy for an entire day. It was no problem at all! She was so much fun.

Well, that is it, again, for now. This week promises to be filled with lots of family time and good memories, so as long as I'm feeling well, it won't be so long until my next post. Graduation pictures, plus a big, top-secret surprise! Stay tuned!

Love you all!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Good Times Just Keep Coming!

Hi, everyone. It's been another great week. Pam arrived Monday evening which always improves my spirits! I finished up my radiation treatments to my spinal column Wednesday night which means Joe and I don't have to drive up to Scottsdale every evening. A visit to Tucson on Thursday and Friday to see Dr. Livingston with no new bad news and the good news that the cancer has not spread to my liver! My blood counts were a little low to recieve my chemo, so we have to head back up there on Monday. I feel bad for Joe having to do so much driving back and forth, but we all really feel comfortable with the treatment I recieve there.

On Friday evening, I was honored as the Gilbert School District Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I was so surprised and humbled when I was told of this award. I work with the most amazing group of teachers, staff, administration, students, and families. The staff at my school care so much about the whole child and strive each day to care for their minds and spirits and help them grow into smart, caring, well-rounded young people. And they are successful! They are true caring professionals who do extraordinary work every day. They inspire me to be the best that I can be as a teacher and as a person. Just to be counted as an equal among them is an honor to me. To be chosen for special recognition by my students and group of peers was beyond my imagining. All I can say is thank you from deep in my heart. I love you all!

Recieving my award.

The family.

My amazing principal, Sheila!

All the people who came out to support me!

Saturday was Senior Day for Michael's lacrosse team. It was their last regular game of the season. There are seventeen seniors on his team and most of them have played together since junior high for a total of six years. They are the nicest group of young men you could meet. So, this was a special and bittersweet day for all of us. Before the game started, they announced each senior and then they walked onto the field with their parents. The boys had a carnation to give to their moms and they recieved a picture of all the seniors and a program that had their lacrosse pictures in it, a baby picture, and quotes from them. It was really special. I think even with not feeling well, I cheered louder for the boys at this game than any other game. I will definitely miss lacrosse season.

Two proud parents walking their senior out onto the field!

Signing the Farewell Seniors banner after the game.

Joe, Michael, and Pam in front of the Go Tigers! poster.

Today, Janaya called up and said she was going to come and get Brewski to take to the dog park. I said I would like to go with her and she replied she was worried about exposing me to the germs there. I told her not to worry, I would try to stay away from the dogs and would wash up when I got home. So off we went! With everything else going on at home, poor Brewski has been a very neglected dog. He was so excited to get in the car and arrive at the park! He was off running, playing in the water and with the other dogs. Janaya and I sat down on the concrete ledge when all of a sudden this dog comes up behind me, lifts his leg, and pees on me! Then, two other dogs come up and slobber all over my shirt and pants. So much for staying away from the germs! Anyway, Brewski, Janaya, and I all ended up having a great time. Both Brewski and I got a bath when we got home. Janaya stayed around for a while and she and her dad put her trunk together, so now all three are assembled and ready to have books put in them. They are all absolutely gorgeous.

So, that is it for the Hitzel household this week! The thing is, all this wonderful stuff was going on before. I've just learned to really hold on tight to it and treasure it just a bit more than I might have in the past.

Love you all!